Friday, September 17, 2010

Avril-Kenya's Newest Singing Sensation

Avril (aka Judith Nyambura Mwangi) is a new star taking over the Kenyan music scene. Unlike many musicians, she did not start in the church choir or in school. She did poetry and drama in high school but that was just about it. It wasn’t until after completing her secondary education in Uganda that she realized that she had a captivating voice. She initially plied her trade doing voiceovers for Trapeez when she was invited by Banda and Lucas of Ogopa.  In 2005, Avril sung backup vocals for a number of artistes before her producers thought that her sound was refined enough to start working on collaborations. She was later signed by the Ogopa Deejays label.

      In late 2009, she released her debut single 'Mama' that is being played in Kenya and East Africa in general and has been a huge hit for her. The song is a about a girl pleading with her parents to understand her and accept her choice of a boyfriend. It has resonated well with many people because it is an issue that the youth occasionally have to confront. She has also collaborated with a number of artistes including with Jaguar on the hit track ‘Tayari’, LAM from Sudan, with King George on ‘Number 1’ and lastly, with Tanzania’s AY on the track ‘Ahsante’.

      The sky continues to be the limit for Avril as she has opened for the Morgan Heritage reggae show in April 2009, performed at the Mr & Miss UON (Carnivore), International Women’s Day, and Stardust in Malindi and at the Youth Convention at Bomas of Kenya among other places.

     Avril is currently pursuing a degree in design at the University of Nairobi and counts her mother as one of her biggest fans. Be on the lookout for more hits from Avril and the Ogopa label.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Interview with Eli Jacobs-Fantauzzi & Hashim Haruna of HomeGrown - Hip Life in Ghana Documentary

   HomeGrown HipLife in Ghana is a feature-length documentary that trains its’ lens on a music genre in Ghana called HipLife, a fusion of contemporary American hip-hop and Highlife, the traditional pop music of West Africa. The documentary directed by budding filmmaker Eli Jacobs-Fantauzzi (Clenched Fist Productions) and produced by Hashim Haruna (Boggie Down Nima Productions) chronicles over a period of ten years, the lives of a group of young musicians (VIP) from the Nima ghetto in Accra, to their first international tour. VIP’s members (Vision in Progress) are unique, coming from a diverse set of religious affiliations, ethnic groups, and language backgrounds. Its’ members include Emmanuel “Promzy” Ababio, Abdul Hamid “Lazzy” Ibrahim, and Joseph Nana “Prodigal” Ofori. This documentary features other hiplife acts such as Reggie Rockstone (considered the God Father of HipLife), alongside his sidekick DJ Rab, Tinny, TicTac, Panji, DJ Black and Obrafour.

            Eli Jacobs-Fantauzzi’s work is a testament to his willingness to carry his camera into dangerous areas in order to get the shot. His previous works such as Inventos: Hip Hop Cubano, The Breaks and i of motion us of movement were only preludes to incessant desire to produce high quality documentaries. Eli does for Ghana’s Hiplife what Martha Cooper did for the emerging hip-hop New York scene in the early 1980’s. He filmed these young and talented artistes in their own world playing, exploring, and being creative. The camera also tracks these artistes as they blossom from teenagers to musicians with fans around the world and how they deal with their new-found fame. As a group, VIP easily embodies the greatness and perseverance that reflected a tough, unforgiving and ambitious ghetto life. They met to see "who is who “in rap competitions. Little did they know that one day they would become superstars. The documentary concludes with footage showing V.I.P. on tour in Europe, South Africa (at the 2004 Kora Music Awards ) and the United States, being received by enormous crowds. The viewer is given an intense experience of the excitement surrounding the group’s success and from witnessing the international explosion of HipLife music. This documentary has had screenings in New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and most recently at the Copenhagen International Documentary Film Festival, in Copenhagen, Denmark.

            Below are excerpts of a recent radio interview I had with Eli Jacobs and Hashim Haruna about the documentary, the current state of hiplife and future projects.

How did the two of you get together to make this movie industry and what attracted you to work together?
Eli: I went to study in Ghana for about a year and had a hip-hop show on the local university radio station called Radio Universe. Many of the local acts would occasionally stop by and ask me to play their songs, so that is how I got introduced to the Hip Life movement.
Hashim: Basically, I consider Eli a brother and as owner of Boogie Down Productions we sat down and decided to make it happen.

How did you arrive at the main characters VIP (Vision In Progress) considering there were other reputable acts such as Reggie Rockstone, DJ Rab and Tinny?
Eli: There are many more acts such as TicTac, Obrafour and Buk Bak that were featured in the movie. What happened was that VIP were the ones that brought me to Nima, brought me to (unintelligible) in the late 1990’s and really invited me to their homes ,and I ended up living with them in Nima. So instead of highlighting everybody, I decided to tell the story of how one group from the hood (Nima) made it to the international stage.

Who sponsored this documentary? And how long it took to film it?
Hashim: This movie was independently funded and produced. Eli and I basically funded this film from our own resources. There was no big budget behind this documentary because they did not understand the concept behind this. Believe me, we tried to seek funding but nothing became of it and so we took it upon ourselves to bring this idea to fruition.
Eli: In America, they see the same negative images of Africa over and over again. I feel that if I were to ask for funding for a film about an orphan child from war who does not have a family they would fund it much faster than a film about the youth in Africa having a voice and doing well for themselves.

What were some of the challenges you encountered filming this documentary?
Eli: Yes. Some of the challenges…actually the biggest challenge was the funding. So once we decided to make this happen on our own.(Clenched Fist and Boogie Down Nima Productions pulled resources), and after that it was smooth sailing. We went to Ghana where we spent some time filming, we travelled with VIP to the Kora Awards in Johannesburg, South Africa, to London on tour, and then Boogie Down Nima Productions brought them to the US where we got to film them too. So in terms of the complications, there was not that many. I was really surprised by the number of people that opened their doors and let us in to tell us their story

This documentary has been screened at the Philadelphia, New York festivals and most recently in Copenhagen. What has been the audience reception so far and future plans?

Hashim: Basically, we have a diverse audience. However, a large number of this audience is African-Americans, who are interested in Ghana and Africa. We’ve had a lot of interest in this documentary
Eli: The response has been amazing. I love it when Ghanaians show up to the movie because they leave with a sense of pride. For them, it is easy to relate to this documentary and feel a part of it. For Americans, they see something new, a new image of Africa that they haven’t seen before which I love to show them. The future is getting a lot of people to see it, to give us their opinion, what they would like to see next and really to get the image of hiplife music around the world so that people can hear from the likes of VIP, Reggie Rockstone and the new artistes such as Sarkodie.

              Rod Chavis once said in a paper presentation on “Africa in the Western Media” that images of Africa in the west, many times, are deeply troubling psychologically and emotionally, especially to those claiming her as primordial heritage, lineage, and descendancy. They portray a no there there: no culture, no history, no tradition, and no people, an abyss and negative void. It is my fervent hope that this documentary will help to erase certain long held perceptions of Africa as portrayed in the western media and in some movies. I will urge everyone to either buy the DVD or contact the film maker to arrange a screening due to the film’s uplifting message on Africas’ youth.

I am immensely grateful  to Eli Jacobs-Fantauzzi and Hashim Haruna for their time and all the help provided for this interview. These guys are simply great!!

Here is a link to the full-length interview with Eli Jacobs-Fantauzzi and Hasim Haruna conducted on 8/28/2010. 

For bookings and other media contacts, please email  Eli Jacobs-Fantauzzi  or Hashim Haruna  or by simply visiting the website

The Afrikan Child © Copyright 2010. All Rights reserved. No part of these pages, either text or image may be duplicated without the author's permission. Also, reproduction, modification, storage in a retrieval system or retransmission, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical or otherwise is strictly prohibited without prior written permission. General inquiries should be directed to our Web feedback box, accessible from this link or from the footer at the bottom of most pages on our site.